Social networking is exploding online. Donât be afraid, say pros, just jump right in to create communities and build your business.
Various websites let you do online what youâve been doing daily: networking and socializing with friends, clients, industry peers and consumers. The difference: Online, you can do it faster, from your home and for free.
Unlike your salonâs website, social networking sites allow you to create pages, make immediate updates on your own and enjoy simplified two-way communication. In fact, you can get your message out to thousands of friends or fans with the click of one button. Although Facebook and Twitter are getting all the buzz lately, other behemoths include Yelp, MySpace, YouTube, Digg, Friendster and LinkedIn.
It would be impossible to cover even the basic features, dos and donâts of various networks, which are continually evolving. Your best and fastest inroad is to jump in and exploreâor have someone whoâs adept at using the sites give you a short, visual walk through.
Peter Shankman, the founder of Help a Reporter (which has more than 36,000 journalist members) is nationally recognized as a social networking innovator. His advice is to treat all social networks as tools that you must learn to use.
âItâs not always about you,â says Shankman. âHelping others, providing information and becoming the person they want to turn to is the best way to network.â
Today, more than three-quarters of potential employers check out job applicants on social networks, and millions of consumers search for businesses and people on them. To avoid the wrong kind of publicity, adhere to Shankmanâs âpreacher, parent, bossâ rule: Never post anything that would offend any of those three. Also, only join a network if you are going to actively monitor your pages and update your information regularly.
Once youâve joined and navigated your way around, your communication power is limited only by your creativity. For inspiration, take a look at some of the innovative ways industry pros are leveraging social networking sites:
- Maria Bowman, manager of digital media for Matrix (matrix.com), created a âBeauties Who Love Biolageâ group on Facebook to interact with consumers. On Matrixâs professional Facebook pages, a question about what would create more interaction brought requests by stylists to post their work; the company will now accommodate that request in 2010. The biggest benefit, says Bowman, is the ability to post questions and get immediate responses: âPeople are more passionate when they engage with your brand.â
- At Redken (redken.com), senior director of interactive marketing Rachael Weiss says she uses Facebook to update fans on whatâs new, host a contest for new fans to get product samples and drive consumers to the websiteâs salon finder. Her advice: Test and master Facebook on a personal level with friends before creating a business page, which attracts âfansâ as opposed to âfriends.â
- Pivot Point International (pivot-point.com), in Evanston, IL, created a Facebook page for its new Snap Cap ârecyclableâ mannequin head, who has her own friends thanks to a playful âSWF seeking relationshipâ ad. The companyâs VP of global marketing Ken Angermeier says the best online networking communicates with potential students the way they are used to communicating. Example: His Facebook posting heralds Pivot Point grad Rahni Flowers, who was chosen as Michelle Obamaâs Inaugural hair stylist. Thereâs a recruitment video adjacent to the posting.
- Tom Brophy, co-owner of Tom Brophy Salon (tombrophyhair.com) in Beverly Hills, says using social sites is a great way to network. âMany people donât have the time to get out and about; utilizing these websites to obtain business information is effortless,â he says.
- Catherine Kofler, e-commerce marketing associate for DePasquale Companies (depasqualethespa.com) in Fairlawn, NJ, says she uses MySpace to promote the New York Streets brand by posting news, messages, promotions and educational videos. She recently added music to create a feel for the brand, something you canât do on Facebook.
Start with a Plan
The online options can be overwhelming, unless you start with a plan. Pivot Pointâs Angermeier conducted a detailed survey to learn where he should focus the beauty schoolâs efforts.
âItâs like any marketing program; learn where your target-market members spend their time and what theyâre doing online,â he says.
Although Facebook emerged as the best choice, he notes that people expect you to find them on Facebook, not vice-versa. Even though Facebook is free, you need valuable time resources to make it work for you, he adds.
Creating and Attracting a Community
It no longer costs more to get new clients than it does to retain current onesâa revolution in itself. Now, a simple time investment lets you do both simultaneously. Once you join any social network, encourage clients, media and others to visit your pages or sign-up for your tweets on Twitter. For example, add a âFind us on Facebookâ logo to countertop cards, business cards and your existing website.
|InDepth: Salon Q and A
Karie Bennett, owner of Atelier SalonSpa and Atelier Studio (atelieraveda.com) in San Jose, CA, and a 2008 Global Salon Business Award winner.
SALON TODAY: What social networks do you use?
KARIE BENNETT: Iâve been on Facebook for five years; one of the founders is a client. I was on MySpace but donât manage it now. Iâve been giving Twitter a test; I use it on my mobile. If I had enough followers, Iâd send an 8 a.m. tweet: âWe have three open appointments today; first person to book one gets 20-percent off.â At Yelp, I have a paid business account, which lets me reply privately to posters. On our gift bags, we have a sticker that says, âInspire others, please give us a compliment on Yelp.â
ST: How have you used Facebook lately?
KB: I have a personal page and I created a group for business. On the group page, I posted that I was doing hair at our lifestyle centerâs fashion show, and added links to their pages. Ticket sales doubled within days and we sold out. On Facebook, you can create a âglobal event,â like a model search, so that anyone searching for âhair modelâ in your area will see your page on the global event page.
ST: Whatâs new on your personal profile page?
KB: I keep that for friends and salon owners. Recently, a hair and make-up artist from Britney Spearsâ tour found my Facebook page because she gets Aveda color and wanted her color retouched by an Aveda pro in San Jose. I already had concert tickets, but she invited us backstage.
ST: Whatâs your best social networking advice?
KB: Use your privacy settings, so you have to approve any photos posted. You can also turn on and off posts from others. Respond to everyone; even a negative comment is an opportunity to learn. Use keywords people search for on Facebook and have âsalonâ in the name of your business. Also, use your brandâAveda branding has been awesome for us. If you accept a fan who becomes bothersome, you can easily remove or block themâremember, youâre judged by whom you associate with.
At the recent IBS show, DePasquale Companiesâ Ecru brand used an over-sized sign to encourage attendees to sign up as a fan at the companyâs Facebook page. Once anyone joins Facebook, its software suggests others with similar interests, so each of your fans becomes a magnet for more. To up the ante, Patrick McIvor, Matrixâs new artistic director of color and owner of two Patrick McIvor studios in Bethlehem and Allentown, PA, advises the surreptitious use of searched keywords.
âI put white text on my Facebook pagesâ white background, so anyone searching for certain groups will find my page,â explains McIvor. You can add âbest salon in Champaign, IL,â for instance; no one will know itâs there but you, and itâll drive Facebook members to your pages.â
Ellen Marth, the publicist for Nick Arrojo (arrojostudio.com), a New York salon owner and Wella special creative artist, created separate Facebook pages for Arrojo Studio, products, education and cosmetology. She uses YouTube to host videos, which are linked to Arrojoâs Facebook pages.
âManaging your pages allows direct and relationship marketing; youâre sending messages to people who want them,â notes Marth. âThereâs a rhythm to managing social networks. In the morning I update Facebook pages and respond to new fan requests. Donât post everything new on Monday. If two bloggers or newspapers wrote about Nick, I post one link on Monday and the other on Wednesday.â
Kyle Schoeneman, director of new media and markets for Empire Beauty Schools (empire.edu), says Empireâs annual national student competition, which attracts students from 88 schools, was once the only way for alumni to meet. Now, students connect on Facebook before the event and check winning photos from the previous year.
âItâs a great tool to get them excited about attending the event,â he says.
As you build your own online community, add client makeover photos, promotions, styling tips or news about a classâjust about anything can be posted or sent to all your fans at once. You donât have to create all the content yourselfâMarthâs use of hyperlinks allows Arrojoâs ventures to get a boost from positive blogs, websites and articles that occur anywhere on the internet.
To attract new clients and keep existing ones involved, Greg Sarway, co-owner of Spiff for Men (spiffnyc.com) in NYC, used New York-based GoLoyal Inc. (goloyal.com) to create his database of 6,000 names, e-blasts and social network pages. Recently, he promoted a $59-value service bundle (shampoo, cut, manicure, shoe shine) at $39 for first-time visitors, and says of every 10 new clients, seven were from Facebook. His advice: Keep it simple and use expiration dates on promotions.
John Simpson, a stylist at Lewis Hair Salon (lewishairsalon.com) in Pittsburgh, PA, prefers Facebook for business, since you can run a full webinar on it. He also hosts private discussions with colorists. His tip: Link everything together for integrated marketing; the more information you provide, the better.
McIvor created a Facebook fan site for each of his studios, as well as a private group for âhair color nerds.â His business is up 37 percent from this time last year, he says, and in February of this year, he got 20 new guests over a two week periodâ13 came from various internet sites. The best use of Facebook says McIvor: Post your makeover photos. Bonus: Video yourself doing them, post the video on YouTube and, now, youâve got your own channel. Between the two, he got 40 comments within 24 hours on his makeovers.
Twitter, which allows users to send 140-character messages to phones as a text message, should be used with intent. Marth signed up for Twitter in April because journalists use it, making it an easy publicity tool. How do you get followers? Just send out an e-blast and post on your various sites, âFollow us on Twitter.â
Whatâs a good business-building âtweet?â Provide styling tips and original ideas, says Marth. She recently sent a tweet about a new braiding technique, along with a link to the how-to on Facebook. McIvor advises weather-based tweets: âItâll be humid today, be sure to flatiron and use Blow-Down Extreme CrÃ¨me.â
Branding and Integrating Marketing
Try to test each social network one at a time, so you can ensure that your tone, images and messages are consistent across each one. Then, cross promote them with hyperlinks, so each can support the other.
For instance, Redkenâs Weiss recently sent out an e-mail to invite the brandâs Facebook fans to interact with the companyâs various experts. âAsk the Expertsâ pages are integrated with Redkenâs consumer website because âat the end of the day, Facebook doesnât have a salon finder.â
Empireâs Schoeneman manages the schoolsâ Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube accounts. âWe link all of our sites to our homepage at empire.edu, as well as different informational sites like beautyschooladvisor.com,â says Schoeneman. âWe also produce YouTube videos that we link to our Facebook and MySpace pages.â
Just some of Schoenemanâs advice includes: log on daily, interact on a consistent basis, have a procedure for handling various questions and avoid forcing anything on users; let them opt-in.
âSocial media is driven by its members, and your network wonât grow if you arenât genuinely communicating information thatâs relevant to them,â he adds.
If you plan to create several different networks, keep friends, colleagues and clients separated. By using different pages for each, says McIvor, you avoid sending the wrong person a promotional offer, and control who sees what. Planning for this in advance allows you to evolve in sophisticated ways you never imagined, intertwining the branches of each network and integrating new technology.
Already, Matrix uses an opt-in mobile site (a truncated version of its website), so stylists can download wallpaper images to show clients new styles, then look-up how to create the looks, right from their phones. Now thatâs integration.
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